Saturday 1 October 2016

Fine Gael engaged in 'most negative campaigning online during general election'

Published 03/03/2016 | 12:28

Enda Kenny
Enda Kenny
Enda Kenny's party scored the highest for attacks on other parties and policies in the general election, says a semantics research firm

Fine Gael engaged in the most negative campaigning online during the election campaign, analysts have revealed.

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Adoreboard, a semantics research firm based at Queen's University Belfast, scored Taoiseach Enda Kenny's party highest for attacks on other parties and policies in the short-lived and relatively lacklustre battle for votes.

Just over a third of every tweet sent by parties during the campaign carried negative connotations.

Fine Gael's social media team sent 1,106 messages on Twitter during February with 39.8% carrying one of 12 emotions ranging from fear to disgust.

And a breakdown of the feelings played out on Twitter showed the Taoiseach's party scored worst for tweets which expressed rage, terror, loathing, disgust, grief, sadness and being pensive.

Fianna Fail scored highest for expressing boredom on Twitter while Labour matched Fine Gael's score for anger, Sinn Fein showed most apprehension and the Greens most annoyance.

Chris Johnston, chief executive of Adoreboard, said the company's anaylsis platform Toneapi.com pinpointed the scale of negativity put out by each party and through interactions on the micro blogging site.

"These are the emotions which tend to drag down the overall positivity of content and intense feelings of negativity were especially evident," he said.

Between February 1 and February 26, Labour, which suffered the most at the polls, were most active on Twitter. But out of 2,431 tweets, only 35.4% were negative.

The Greens were second on the active list with 1,187 and again less likely to engage in negativity with a score of 34.5%.

Some 38% of Sinn Fein's 1,170 tweets were negative, while 39.3% of Fianna Fail's 851 messages were in that bracket.

The Social Democrats were also very active online with 881 tweets coming from a low base and only 35.4% were negative.

Adoreboard also analysed more than 65,000 tweets mentioning all the parties which were posted in the run up to the close of polls.

Of the 15,000-plus tweets which mentioned Fine Gael, 23% contained emotions of loathing or grief.

And based on the research of the Twitter campaigns, public trust was said to be strong among the small parties.

Adoreboard said the Greens and Independent Alliance scored highest with 7.95% and the Social Democrats came a close second on 7.25%.

Those figures compare with the "trust" performance of Labour on 7.34%, Sinn Fein 6.8%, Fianna Fail 6.67% and Fine Gael 5.87%.

Dr Gary McKeown, an expert in emotion at the School of Psychology at Queen's University, said: "Trust is an important issue in the success of any politician and it is central to whether voters will see them as likely to keep the promises they are making in the run up to the general election.

"Trust is difficult to build, it needs to be protected as it is very easy to lose, and we tend to lean towards distrust as a default position.

"This unfortunately, but perhaps unsurprisingly, means that most politicians start from a position where there is a lack of trust, and that is probably amplified in the current climate of austerity."

Adoreboard carried out similar social media analysis during last year's general election in Britain which suggested that negative emotions played a big part in the success of the Conservatives.

Close to 8% of the Tories' Twitter content related to fear while 17% of mentions confirmed trust.

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